Opening the house up to the street—something that neither Wright nor modernist architects did—is a curiously disarming gesture.
Its one extravagance was a large window facing the street—the picture window.
As far as I have been able to determine, picture windows made their first appearance in Levittown, Pa.
When I was growing up in Canada, my friends and I lived in new, ranch-type houses. It contained a living room, an eat-in kitchen, three bedrooms, and a bathroom, all in less than 800 square feet.
This would have been a tight fit for the four of us, except that we also had a large basement, which accommodated my train set, my parents' collection of s, and a laundry area. I nailed sheets of textured plywood to the walls, laid vinyl tile on the floor, and stapled perforated acoustical tile to the ceiling.
The split-level originated in California as a way of building on slopes, but it also provided useful solutions to two new domestic problems. The first televisions, which were designed like pieces of furniture, stood in the living room.
As television watching became increasingly popular—especially among children—to preserve the living room for formal entertaining, the set was moved to its own special room: the recreation, or rec, room.
Houses are the largest investments that most families will ever make, and as prudent small investors, they tend to be conservative and to avoid unnecessary risk.
While architectural critics frequently disparage the uniformity of housing, that is precisely what buyers demand; they don't want to be stuck with an odd or dated house at the time of resale. But houses are not only investments, they are homes, and hence sources of personal pleasure and pride.
Some statistics: In 1950 the median size of a new house was 800 square feet; by 1970 this had increased to 1,300; 20 years later it had grown to 1,900; and in 2003 it stood at 2,100.
More than one-third of new houses built today exceed 2,400 square feet.
Wednesday's slide show follows the evolution of New Daleville step-by-step, from cornfield to subdivision.